There is at least one good news for German pig farmers: the price of their animals has not fallen again. They still receive 1.27 euros per kilogram, the association of cattle and meat producers said on Wednesday. It does not cover costs, but farmers feared worse.
Because after the African swine fever (ASF) reached Germany, German pork can practically only be exported to the EU. Almost all third countries, including the main importer, China, have stopped importing. Therefore, the price fell by 20 cents on Friday.
China became the largest buyer after the country itself was hit by an epidemic, deadly to pigs but harmless to humans. Since 2018, millions of pigs have been killed in the People’s Republic. Imports increased to satisfy the Chinese appetite for pork.
German producers in particular benefited. In the first half of 2020, almost 27 percent of the 870,700 tons of pork exported by Germany went to China.
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Tönnies: Meat could now be more expensive for German consumers
Stopping supplies is a heavy blow to farmers, but also to the meat industry. Because there are especially desirable parts in China that German citizens don’t like: ears, snouts and paws. Therefore, Germany’s largest slaughterhouse, Tönnies, is already warning against rising prices for German consumers, as exports of less noble parts to China have led to previously low prices for meat and sausages.
The federal government is working at full speed and through all diplomatic channels to lift import bans. It wants to change the ban throughout Germany to a supply stop limited to the affected regions. In addition, so far only feral pigs and no domestic pigs have been infected, argues Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner (CDU). “There is hope,” a ministry spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
New dead bodies discovered in Brandenburg
So far, the epidemic has been limited to Brandenburg. Last week, the first corpse of an infected stream was found in Schenkendöbert, seven kilometers from the Polish border. On Tuesday, a state laboratory in Berlin-Brandenburg found the virus in five other wild boars near Neuzelle (Oder-Spree district). On Wednesday, another five dead bodies were discovered there, which are now being examined in a state laboratory.
The mobile fence seals the core area and is to be replaced by a fixed fence. Photo: dpa
The new findings are also in an area that Brandenburg has already identified as an endangered area. Authorities have defined an area of 24 kilometers around the site of the first corpse, to which special rules apply.
Hunting is not allowed at this time and farmers must not bear crops so as not to frighten wild boars. Transport of pigs is only possible in exceptional cases. Brandenburg Minister of Agriculture Axel Vogel (Greens) has already announced that he will examine compensation in favor of farmers.
Everyone who reports a dead wild boar gets money
Brandenburg also pays premiums to track down other infected wild boars. Anyone who finds and reports a dead wild boar in the 24-kilometer zone will receive 100 euros. In the already closed immediate core zone, 150 euros are paid, but only local hunters and farmers are allowed to enter this area.
Basic zone. Strollers are not allowed here. Photo: dpa
The purpose of the finder’s fee is to provide the authorities with an overview of the infection process as soon as possible so that the main area can finally be identified. A solid fence should then be built around this red zone and all wild boars should be killed there.
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Criticism of cheap meat
The ASF crisis has also sparked a debate on animal husbandry in Germany.
The SPD and the Greens in Lower Saxony, the country with the largest pig farms, are calling for a shift away from cheap meat exports and a reduction in the high number of animals.
Is it still appropriate? The epidemic stimulates discussion about animal husbandry in Germany Photo: dpa
“There is no doubt that we have too high animal densities in many regions of Germany,” said a Federal Environment spokeswoman Tagesspiegel, who said the ministry’s export orientation was “very critical”. Export price pressure leads farmers to “destructive competition”. However, the ASP has only limited use as evidence of a “cheap meat system” because German pig farmers originally benefited from the outbreak in China. For environmental reasons, the ministry criticizes the fact that previous infections have led to even greater concentrations in pig farming. That is why it is now necessary to take a different path and ensure that animal husbandry becomes animal welfare and is more environmentally friendly. In addition to the reconstruction of stables in accordance with animal welfare, greater coverage of animal husbandry and effective air pollution control are important.
The barn conversion financing program is underway
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, on the other hand, points out that funding for greater animal welfare is already under way. From now on, farmers can apply for the modernization of their stalls up to EUR 500 000, with a total of EUR 300 million available. The construction project must not be combined with an increase in the number of animals. “While the Greens are still digging into the moth field of old demands, we are moving forward with the transformation of animal husbandry,” said spokesman Tagesspiegel.